James Craig Annan (1864–1946) was a pioneering Scottish-born photographer and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
The son of the early documentary photographer Thomas Annan (who published Photographs of the Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow in 1878), J. Craig Annan apprenticed in his father’s photographic printing business. The firm specialized in the carbon process, and after James learned photogravure directly from its Austrian inventor in 1883, the firm became expert in that process as well.
When his father died in 1887, Annan took over and continued to successfully run the family business, but about 1890 he grew restless and began to follow his own, artistic interests in the medium. He was particularly drawn to photography’s ability to render mood and atmosphere, as in this photograph. In it, Annan has employed his expertise in photogravure to subdue the edges of the figures in the foreground and unify the tonal character of the entire image in order to effect a stronger and more unified composition. The dynamic disintegration of form verging on the abstract is reminiscent of the paintings of James MacNeill Whistler-one of Annan’s favorite artists.